Malian professor Étienne Fakaba Sissoko, jailed for criticizing the junta

Screenshot, Junta leader Assimi Goïta came to power in a coup in 2020 following anti-government protests.

  • Author, Gloria Aradi
  • Role, bbc news

A prominent Malian economist and professor has been sentenced to two years in prison, one of which was suspended, for his criticism of the military junta.

Étienne Fakaba Sissoko was also ordered to pay a fine of 3 million CFA francs ($4,900; £3,900).

The 41-year-old academic, who has been detained since March, was accused of defamation and damaging the reputation of the State by distributing false news.

The charges relate to a book he published last year, which he defended in court, saying the work was based on facts.

Human rights groups say theirs is the latest case of a widespread crackdown on critics and political opponents of military rulers.

They came to power in August 2020, when then-president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was overthrown in a coup following huge anti-government protests over his handling of jihadist unrest.

Sissoko’s lawyer, Ibrahim Marhouf Sacko, said he was “not surprised” by the verdict and would appeal, the AFP news agency reported.

The University of Bamako professor was an advisor to the deceased Keïta and spent several months in prison in 2022, according to AFP.

The work that led to his latest arrest is called Propaganda, Agitation and Harassment: Government Communication during the Transition in Mali.

He accuses the junta of using manipulation and “even lies” to influence public opinion in its favor.

Before his arrest, Sissoko also published a Facebook post calling for elections to be held.

The junta has faced criticism for missing agreed deadlines for the transition to democratic civilian government. The elections scheduled for February were postponed again.

Critics also say the military-led government has failed to adequately address the worsening jihadist insurgency, despite the alleged deployment of Wagner group mercenaries and the expulsion of UN peacekeepers.

He has also faced criticism for his handling of the economy.

Earlier this month, participants in what has been called a “national dialogue” suggested extending the transition period for another three years.

Several critics of the junta have been jailed over the past year, including popular social media influencer Rokia Doumbia and prominent activist Adama Ben Diarra.

In April, the junta also suspended political activities and imposed a media blackout on political coverage.

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Image source, Getty Images/BBC